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Fieldnotes by CianMcLiam

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Dranagh (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This piece of rock art literally fell out of the gap in the wall behind it in 2008, having been placed with the carved face inwards when the wall was being built. Several such pieces have been discovered this way in the Carlow area over the past couple of decades.

The walls here are very substantial, piled four feet high or more and almost as thick. They cross the hillsides for miles around. Who knows how many more pieces are hidden within them.

Ballinlug (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This carved stone was found buried in a field nearby many years ago and was temporarily set into a wall before being moved to the front of a farmers cottage for safe keeping.
The cottage now lies in a forgotten pile of stone in the corner of a field and I was not very hopeful of locating the rock art. However, after hacking through the undergrowth for a while this stone stood out as the largest on top of the pile and moving a decaying tree trunk revealed the carvings underneath, still in an excellent state of preservation.

It is the only example of rock art so far discovered in Co. Westmeath.

Knockroe (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

One part of this stone was found several years ago when part of a field wall was removed, since then the other three parts have turned up along the wall and have recently been reconstructed in the gap formed by a gateway.

There is very good access, up a farm lane to the west of the site, then follow a barely noticeable carved cup and ring sign placed in a gateway (unfortunately placed in the wrong side if you are driving up the lane, but ok if you have come down the hill as part of the walking trail), straight across the field to the gateway in the far wall opposite.

There is a stake placed right in front of it, but it is only sitting in a base and can easily be taken out for photos and then replaced.

Boleycarrigeen (Stone Circle)

(notes relate to the photo posted here: http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/82176/boleycarrigeen.html)

Boleycarrigeen Stone Circle at sunset 03/01/10, in the foreground are the two portal stones which are the tallest stones in the circle and in the centre of the shot is the axial stone, one of the smallest, probably indicating sunset at winter solstice from what I saw this afternoon and as can be seen in the photo. The sun's setting position moves extremely slowly around the solstices though a proper survey and observation closer to the date might be needed to confirm.

As far as I can tell from researching this circle this alignment has not been noted before. Burl does not indicate any alignment event here at all. Up until the last year the circle was in a small clearing in a plantation that blocked views in all directions but near the winter solstice in 2005, Tom Fourwinds and I thought we could see some sunlight glow behind the axial stone.

This year was the first that accurate observations could be made but due to bad weather and treacherous roads it was only today that I managed to return to view the sunset, though I don't recommend anyone visiting any time soon as the roads are still extremely dangerous. The plantation is also growing back quickly with no route left to the circle, the trees are planted very close together so this and possibly next year may be the last time this can be viewed before the circle is swallowed up again by trees.

I think I owe the guy who drive in front of me up to the hills a credit here too because if he wasn't driving in front of me I probably wouldn't have chanced the roads at all as they were like ski slopes (though his jeep had much bigger tyres than mine!).

Dranagh (now in St. Mullins) (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Now this is interesting. The stone is kept in a heritage museum in the former Church of Ireland at St. Mullins (the ruined abbey and high cross are in the same place) and I was told the National Musuem has the original and the heritage centre a copy.

Either Ireland is home to a master stone carver who lovingly spent years carving and applying very convincing weathering and wear on this stone or both the National Museum and the Heritage Centre have gotten themselves into a mixup. I'm 95% sure this is the original stone taken from the top of a field wall on Dranagh Mountain, and the carvings match a sketch taken from the piece in the National Museum. The Heritage Centre have original pics of the stone from not long after it was found and every contour of the stone matches yet not a single modern tool mark is visible. Remarkable!

It is a lovely stone with an unusual design, could be a sibling of the stone at Tinnacarrig in that the design seems to have been planned around the shape of the piece. And here, like at Spahill, we see a lip/groove carved around the edge of the stone and curling back into the space to the right of the cup and ring. A beauty, and either the best fake in the world or a little stone lost...

Dromagurteen (Stone Circle)

Summer Solstice Sunrise, 21st June 2009.

Ah yes, the summer solstice. I trekked up the hillside from the carpark (a longer and steeper walk than I had anticipated for this early in the morning!) and arrived just in time for that ancient traditional ritual: 'Foxy, SHUT THE F*&K UP!! F&%K SAKE! Mick, shut your effing dog up, f%&kin hell'.

Two heads had camped up at the circle and their pregnant retriever was guarding the tent with far too much enthusiasm. Who needs ravers and gluesniffers at Stonehenge when you can stare into the 'jaws of death' in Bonane Heritage Park.

Eventually one body emerged from the tent, and soon we were joined by a biker who's friend had gotten a puncture and was observing the cloudy skyline from the side of a miserable road a few miles away.

It didn't take long for the reality to sink in, there was to be no sunrise this solstice. The horizon line is quite high up above the circle so I knew it would be some time before the sun would reach that high so I wandered around the other monuments in the park in vain hope.

At 6.30am, the silence was once again broken by the sound of cars roaring up the track way. Thee cars appeared and parked below the ring fort, it seemed to have been some kind of guided tour so I shadowed them for a while to see what I could find out.

The sunrise from the circle apparently occurs quite late, sometime around 6.30- 6.40am. At this time the sun has been up for over an hour and so would be a blinding light appearing above the ridge beyond, probably impossible to observe safely with the naked eye and very tricky to photograph (no chance of detail in the circle unless you blend a couple of shots).

I think this was the fourth cloudy solstice in a row, except one year when I watched the most beautiful sunrise from a deckchair off the coast of Borneo. At least I came away with two valuable nuggets of information for next time, sleep in for another hour and check the gates are locked before huffing and puffing up the hill by foot!

Carrowleagh (Court Tomb)

This is an amazing and exceptionally rare example of a near complete court tomb, just one roofstone appears to be missing. The court and cairn are still underneath the bog, the top of the cairn reaches just a little higher than the uncut surrounding bog. One of the most important features of this particular site is the untouched corbelled walls and roofing which shows how the many court tombs with only low walls remaining would originally have been built up into substantial chambers.
To find this site you need either a GPS unit or guidance from a local.

Kealduff

Apparently around 19 examples of rock art have been recorded in this townsland alone, with two more in the adjacent townsland of Letter West and the large group at Coomasaharn near the lake.

Because many were almost entirely covered in peat they have been amazingly well preserved, to compare the weathered carvings with the protected ones is like night and day. This area also has some unique cross or cruciform carvings with cups and pennanular rings at the end of each arm and sometimes inside the remaining 'slices' of the axis.

The numbers assigned to the panels here are the entry numbers for the Archaeological Survey of the Iveragh Peninsula.

Ballykissane (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

A very, very sad place. Ballykissane burial ground is a disused CillĂ­n or burial ground for infants that died before baptism. Under the shroud of the maniacal catholic church, the un-baptised were buried away from the consecrated graveyard alongside murderers, lunatics and others deemed beyond salvation. A very nice woman who lives nearby nearly had tears falling when she was describing how grief stricken parents of infants were forced to bury their child after midnight in this graveyard away from the community and could not wake them or find comfort in the normal burial rituals. Those sick bastards. Ballykissane was in use up until the mid 20th century.

Only tiny bits of boulders mark the graves and the graveyard is so overgrown that it's impossible to see many of them now.
Recently, perhaps in a moment of repentance, a standing stone with a plaque of remembrance for the children buried here was erected where the old track to the burial ground met the road to the east.

The rock art is now sitting under a tree along the borders of the raised burial area but has moved at least once. Along both sides of a fissure are five cup and rings and around 12 deep and rounded cup marks. Other rings may have weathered away.

Access is through a farmyard along the road south. Please ask.

Knockmany (Passage Grave)

Having failed to get the key once more (so close, so far!) I was going to visit Sess Kilgreen again when I passed the sign for Knockmany and decided to check it out anyway.

The forestry service guy told me to drive up until I reach the service car park nearer the top, so up I drove. And up. And then nearly drove into the side of the tomb! I didn't realise it was possible to drive all the way up but the track is steep and not very solid so I would recommend the forest walk instead.

It was a clear, sunny day and the views were amazing, recent rain seemed to have cleared the haze. The enclosing bunker is hideous as lamented elsewhere, but the tomb inside is great, lots of bizarre and surprising carvings visible through the door and from the skylight.

By employing a few tricks (sticking camera on tripod through the bars and perching flash units up on the skylight) I was able to get some decent pics all the same.

Something should really be done about the interior of this monument, it makes the Fourknocks roof look like a work of artistic genius. Whats with the air vent to nowhere behind the backstone? At least painting the walls black would be a vast improvement.

Derryleagh (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This is possibly a new un-recorded or reported site, Avril Purcell described four panels in the townland, each on 'unobtrusive' flat, low lying boulders, these markings are in a large heavy boulder over 1.5m high and 2m broad. Two faces were found to have been carved, the top has weathered basins with rings and what look like cup and ring remains, the opposing face has two cup and rings very closely spaced.

Caherbarnagh (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

The owner of the house with this piece of rock art forming part of a wall asked that I did not give out the exact location of the stone as he doesn't want visitors.

The stone was built into a shed or house that was being demolished, the farmer decided to save it and cemented it into his wall, right outside his front door. It's unclear where exactly it was originally found. The whole panel is just over a foot high.

Cairn S (Passage Grave)

I set a reminder in my phone to check out this cairn at sunset around Bealtaine as Martin Brennan suggested it has an early May alignment. Well, I since switched phones so it was only while looking for a drawing of something else (the stone at Killin in Co. Louth, which he seems to have confused with Carrickrobin) that it hit me. As luck would have it, the weather then wasn't great but tonight it was perfect.

The sunset does indeed stream down the left hand side of the passage (as looking out) and forms a rectangle of light on right side of the backstone which slowly decreases in size as the sun reaches the horizon. It may have even entered the now-destroyed right hand chamber before dipping below the horizon.

Humewood Castle (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

Humewood Castle is closed presently for renovations and redevelopment (though the golf resort plans are presently being appealed by An Taisce), but luckily I bumped into some people at the gatehouse and was able to venture in for some pics.

The castle is a very large Gothic revival piece from the 19th century complete with walled gardens, lakes and a very large deer park. The co-ords on archaeology.ie place the stone in the middle of a disused tennis court but after some moseying around I spotted a large slab sitting incongruously between two paths very near the castle itself.

The carvings are well worn but immediately obvious once you are close, I doubt there is any time of day or year when the low sun would naturally bring them up at their present location.

A large three ring design with external gutter dominates the panel at about 14" across, surrounded by cups with single or double rings and occasional gutters. Simple cup marks are also dotted around and at the curved top end.

The gent I spoke to (who also assisted me in taking some pics by standing in the sun!) told me it may be moved on the advice of an archaeologist because of the risk of damage being on the verge of the road, it seems to bear fairly recent scars which are thankfully on the un-carved end.

The whole stone is about a metre and a half long, larger than it appeared in previous photos I had seen. Apparently it was found buried while one of the artifical lakes was being built in the castle grounds.

Miskish More (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This stone is now in storage in Collins Barracks in Dublin with the decorated face facing the wall.

Drumcah (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

*Important*
The landowner of this site can be very hostile to unannounced visitors, please do not attempt to visit this site without securing proper permission. Please be warned.

This is a very eroded panel on a lozenge shaped outcrop. Eight cup and ring marks are reported in the Co. Louth survey but I noticed some parallel lines that look suspiciously artificial. The whole panel is about 1.5m long and on two levels.

Description from Co. Louth Survey:
"Lozenge-shaped tabular rock outcrop, with eight cup and ring motifs. These range from a triple-ringed example to simple cup and ring. There is a much-eroded single cup and ring mark on a nearby rock outcrop. (CLAJ 1981, 111)"


On our visit on 12/4/08, the whole site was very overgrown and required quite a bit of clearing and careful removal of dead foliage before the markings became apparent. Permission was not easy to obtain, only for the fact that he remembered Blaze from her previous visit did we finally get the ok. The landowner lives on the main road, not down the lane, look for the boarded up windows and bullet holed windows and do approach with caution. Do not park near the stones blocking the driveway as he does not like this.

Magheranaul (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

After scouring the fields for the rock art locations on archaeology.ie for a couple of hours I slowly accepted that these panels have either become turf covered, or, more alarmingly, been blown up with dynamite like many of the outcrops on the hillside obviously have been over the past few years.

The blown up outcrops in the first field from the road have not been cleared and the remaining stone still litters the hill, this is probably not a good sign since it seems to suggest clearance or building stone was not the reason for using dynamite.

I only found these carvings after a lot of staring at outcrop. There's definite parallel grooves enclosed by lines but these are hugely weathered now and difficult to bring out in full. I also spotted a single cup surrounded by an almond or 'eye' shaped ring on the same outcrop.

Drumcarbit (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This was the fourth time I went looking for this fabled panel and I ended up returning four times, getting washed out each time by wild winds which sent the driving rain in every direction.

The panel has been moved recently from it's last resting place, under some barbed wire beside a gate, to an altogether more picturesque spot under some trees alongside field clearance.

This is wonderful stuff, a really superbly executed set of ten (count them!) rings around a central cup with not one but two radial lines. These lines extend outside the rings and meander off the side of the surface.

The site is very easy to access and locate now, if you enter Malin from the south, cross the estuary and take the next right. Proceed past the crossroads and look out for two new yellow painted houses with white trimming on the right, park here. Cross the road and hop over the rickety gate, the panel is on the far side of the trees extending to your right from the field wall.

Tinncarrig (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This is the fourth time I tried looking for this panel. Somehow I always ended up arriving late in the day and with fading light levels and plenty of discouragement from the people in the house next door, I never managed to locate it.

This time I beat my way into the wildly overgrown disused graveyard with my tripod and began inspecting the fallen gravestone, mostly barely squared off rocks. After half an hour searching the small clearing I was just about to give up. Wading through the waist-high thorn bushes, my feet kept hitting larger and larger stones, one stone in particular had a large flat triangular face and more hacking revealed a faint arc formed by dirt resting in a groove.

Five minutes of jungle clearing later, the full face and some nice deep cup marks could be seen. With a little side flash, a rather wonderful panel appeared on the camera screen.

Arch Hall (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This is a small (partial?) panel, a cup with four rings on sandstone, built into the ornamental arch that gives the ruined mansion of Arch Hall it's name. There are one or two other lines that may indicate some more designs were part of the original composition.
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